After some impressive January transfer window manoeuvres, Alan Pardew seemed to have steered Newcastle United away from the relegation dogfight but as they await the visit of Stoke City this Sunday, the Toon remain in a precarious 15th place.
A win-or-bust philosophy that has seen them draw just once at St James’ Park all season is at the heart of their problems.
Every good result tends to be followed by a defeat, as shown in their most recent sequence: beat Chelsea; lose to Spurs; beat Southampton; lose to Swansea City.
So if that trend continues, then the Toon should follow last weekend’s unlucky loss at the Liberty Stadium (a result this writer correctly predicted here) with a home win over the Potters.
They are indeed odds-on favourites at 4/5 in bwin’s 3Way football betting market, with Stoke 7/2 to pick up only their second road success of the season and the draw at 12/5.
If the Magpies are to come away with victory, then Pardew will expect his French-speaking forward duo of Papiss Cisse and Moussa Sissoko to get the job done.
Sissoko has been a revelation since arriving in January and is 11/4 to get his fourth Newcastle goal, while he also seems to have fired up the star buy of last winter’s window, Cisse, who is 4/1 for a 12th opening goal of his Toon career.
As critical as the French connection have been to Newcastle this season, starting well has been equally key, as Pardew’s team have converted 80% of their leads into victories.
Lead-win in the run of play market is 53/100, but if the Toon do take that lead in the first half (21/20), then there’s more value in backing Newcastle at half-time and full-time at 7/4.
Having said that, Tony Pulis’ team never give anyone an easy ride, as evidenced by their league-high 12 draws.
The last time the Potters conceded more than two goals in a game was back in early January, so it’s worth backing another under 2.5 goal game at 3/4.
With Newcastle’s lack of confidence, Stoke might even make it to the break at 0-0, especially after first-half injury-time concessions in their last two outings, at 19/10.
If Pulis’ side are to get anything out of the game, then he will need either Jon Walters or Cameron Jerome to repeat their goals from the reverse fixture at 7/2 or 15/2 respectively.
On that occasion it finished 2-1 to Stoke, but given the difference in both sides’ form home versus away and Newcastle’s extra need for the points, I fancy them to turn that scoreline on its head and emerge victorious by a single goal at 5/2.
You can back this eventuality by choosing the ‘draw’ option in the 0-1 handicap market – and that’s where my money will be going.